Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Open Shelves Classification: First draft live and at ALA Midwinter

If you're at ALA Midwinter in Denver on Saturday, come talk about this interesting new project. See below for details.

Back in July I blogged to start something called the Open Shelves Classification, a free, crowdsourced alternative to the Dewey Decimal System, and created a Group for it. Soon afterward two librarians, Laena M. McCarthy of the Pratt Institute and David Conners of Haverford took over leadership of the project. For the past six months they and a growing contingent of LibraryThing members, some librarians, some not, have been working to come up with basic principles and working on pieces and on the numbering system. They've also done some interesting work testing the proposed top level against real library records. Much of their work is collected on the Open Shelves Classification Wiki. Laena did a nice post on the OSC on the Public Libary Association blog.

The OSC team has reached some agreement on a first drag of the "top level categories," some fifty categories that, it is hoped, all books fit into somewhere. And you are invited to help classify works in LibraryThing!

Want to help? Go to a work page in LibraryThing and scroll down to the bottom. You'll find a chart of the top-level categories. If you see a good match, click on it. You'll be prompted to say whether you know the book yourself or not. And then you'll get to see how your classification vote match up with anyone else on the site.

You can classify anything in LibraryThing. If you want to help the most, however, click the "Find a random work" link here or below the classification chart. It'll take you to a random work, but also contrive to get multiple members classifying the same works. The idea is that it'll give us a good idea what categories are easy and obvious, and which are causing doubt.

Whatever you find, come and talk about it on the Open Shelves Classification group.

In Denver on Saturday? Laena and David are going to be at the ALA Midwinter show in Denver this weekend. (So are Sonya, Casey and I.) To move the OSC along we reserved a conference room at the Courtyard Marriott (Google Maps) from 1-3pm on Saturday, January 24th. Anyone at ALA is invited to come, as indeed are regular LibraryThing members--the Courtyard is outside the velvet rope.

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Blogger Murray said...

Would be nice if Language and Linguistics was moved to its correct place in alphabetical order.

1/20/2009 4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paranormal gets equal standing to Science? Oh, the shame.

(Regular LTer posting anonymously because I know I'll get chewed out for this.)

1/20/2009 5:19 PM  
Anonymous lorax said...

How does classifying a random work "help the most"? I'd imagine that classification based purely on a title, by someone who has never laid eyes on the book, is likely to be, if not quite useless, certainly less useful than actually having people go through their own libraries and classify the non-fiction sections. I'm happy to do so if you want, but I'd be happier classifying books I actually know something about.

For now I'm just skipping those that have no obviously appropriate place in the new scheme. Is that what "Unclear" is meant to indicate?

1/20/2009 5:26 PM  
Anonymous Ivy said...

I too began with my personal collection rather than the random works, thinking that I might have better insight. But I actually found it much easier to classify the books pulled up in the "random" search. For instance: I feel 99.9% confident classifying a book in fiction from just the info provided by LT. And at least half (if not more) of the random books I get have been just that. I also got quite a few cookbooks, which were easy as well. I think I only encounted 3 or 4 titles from the random selection that I couldn't decide (and one of them was becuase it was in Swedish).

On the other hand, I still can't decide which top-level classification to use for my variety of fashion books... :)

See y'all Saturday, if not before. Can't wait to talk about this!

1/20/2009 7:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where is anthropology? Where is language and linguistics? "Social science" is the obvious default choice, but it is not a very useful classification.

Is "science" really just it? That's too broad to be useful. Will there not be lower levels?

I'm sorry but I don't see how this classification system can be worth the time of a user when LCSHs and tags are available.

1/24/2009 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, nevermind, I see the much larger discussion on the talk group.

1/24/2009 4:34 PM  

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